Furnished or unfurnished? A landlord’s guide to outfitting a property

One of the biggest questions that landlords face is whether it is a good idea to go ahead and buy all of the furniture for their property, or whether it is a better option to allow the new tenants to bring their own.  Purchasing all of the furniture for a property can be very costly so the decision needs to be well thought through.

The most important thing to understand is that there are no laws or rules in place that mean a landlord has to furnish a property.  The decision is left entirely up to you if you want to leave the place bare, or fill each room with everything that is needed, such as furniture, household appliances, kitchen equipment and even carpets.  Your decision to furnish or not to furnish your property will affect the likelihood of you finding tenants and also on the type of tenants you will attract.

Reasons to furnish your property

It will save money for the potential tenants because they will not need to buy new furniture.

It is usually the case that there are a lot more tenants out there looking to rent a property that comes fully furnished.  This means that you will be able to rent out your property more quickly than if you leave it unfurnished.

When the tenancy agreement comes to an end you will still be the owner of the furniture.  You can then go on to use the furniture yourself or leave it in place ready for the next tenant.

You can invest in furniture and appliances that will last for years, meaning that you will not have to purchase new items every time a new tenant moves in.  A lot of landlords do choose to invest in a high quality mattress because it will last for many years.

There are tax benefits to furnishing your property.  If you furnish the property you will be able deduct the total cost of the goods from any tax liability.

Reasons to leave the property unfurnished

If tenants are willing to buy their own furniture when they move in, then it is usually a good indication that they will stay for a long period of time.  If they have taken the plunge and decided to invest in furniture, then they will have planned exactly what is needed for them to live comfortably at your property.  Moving the furniture to another property is always a difficult and costly process.

The tenants that have chosen their own furniture will probably be happier with their selection and less likely to make any complaints.

It takes away the headache of insuring the furniture.  You are not in any way bound to insure the furniture or any other items that are brought in to your property by the tenant.

You do not have to worry about damage to the furniture because you did not provide it.  There will obviously be wear and tear over time but because it is not yours you do not need to worry about replacing it in the future.

Choosing the right plumber insurance

Trying to find the right plumber insurance at the right price can be a wrench for the wallet.

Plumbing is one of those jobs that can lead to a massive claim for compensation if a pipe springs even the smallest leak.

And if the job is on commercial premises and is proved to have caused a shut down or loss of business, the bill can be sky high.

Choosing the right plumber insurance means stepping back and looking at the business and the sort of work generally carried out.

Many plumbers like residential work, while others specialise in bigger commercial projects.

Work out where your revenue comes from and target the risks associated with that work for plumber insurance cover.

Don’t forget the insurer will want to know you are properly qualified for the work the business carries out – especially if hazards like oil or gas are involved.

Now’s the time to start looking at quotes and the cover offered by different insurers – but forget the price for now, it’s the quality of cover not the cost that’s important to a business.

Most plumber insurance will include:

Public liability cover is optional but not necessary. If a plumber is blamed for damage, accident or injury arising from poor workmanship, the compensation and related legal costs can be enormous.

Employer liability looks after the same risks for anyone on the payroll – and is a legal requirement for a business with employees

Other add-ons depend on the size of the business and how it is run.

Standard home insurance does not cover a plumber with an office and storage at home. Insurers will reject any claim if the business does not have dedicated cover

Consider tool cover to safeguard specialist and expensive equipment against loss, damage or theft on or off site – but not when stored at home or business premises or left in a van overnight

Plumbers should also bundle in goods in transit cover to business insurance packages to protect materials and equipment carried for customers or main contractors.

Other options may apply, especially if you run a large business from commercial premises or a yard.

Now, you should have a short list of suitable policies, so look at the price and go for the one offering the best value for money cover.

Five Ways to Spruce Up Your New Home

If you’ve just moved into a new house, chances are you’re sitting on a huge amount of potential. There’s nothing more satisfying than making a house into a home and there are hundreds of ways that you could give your new place a facelift.

From rejuvenating tired walls to truly making your mark on the place, improving your house takes very little time and can be done casually over the course of a few weekends. To get you started, here are five great ways that you can turn your house into something truly beautiful:

Repaint the walls

First thing’s first – a new coat of paint on the walls will make the world of difference. If you’ve just moved in then it’s likely that the walls have not been freshly painted and are still marked from a good few years’ wear and tear as a result of the previous occupant. Painting them will not only have the place looking fresh and sparkling, but it will also alter the mood substantially. A classic off-white colour such as ivory or magnolia is a great way to go – stylish, understated and modern.

Take up the carpet

Carpets can make a house seem quite oppressive and stuffy. Taking them up to reveal the bare wood can be a great move. Once treated and varnished, your new wood floor will make the place a lot more airy, modern and almost unrecognisable.

Choose some new furniture

Getting rid of some old pieces and replacing them with a few well placed items can also help you achieve your desired look at a very low price. Anything from ultra-modern to homely and snug can be achieved with the addition of a few new tables, chairs, desks and lamps. You can browse through hundreds of companies and items online, most of which will deliver them straight to your door.

Give the kitchen some attention

Making sure your kitchen is in good shape is a great idea. It’s often the most used room in the house, particularly when it comes to hardwearing activities such as cooking and making sure it’s a shining example of cleanliness will make you want to spend more time in it.

Invest in some technology

A wide screen television or a new computer could put the finishing touches on your new home, but you need to protect these investments. All these items could be insured under your house contents and you can Visit the Co-operative Insurance for more information about insurance for your house.

Unoccupied property insurance cover

Insurance policies are renowned for having small print to catch out the unwary and one potential trap in most home insurance policies is no cover is offered to a home that is left unoccupied for more than 30 days.

The logic is fairly straightforward since an empty property is more likely to attract burglars and vandals which means there is an increased risk to an insurance company.

However, there are specific policies to cover for leaving a home empty from specialist insurers.

Why do I need unoccupied property-insurance cover?

Many owners have good reasons for leaving a home empty –

  • The owner may have moved into long-term care
  • The owner has died and the home is part of an estate in probate
  • The owners have moved out
  • The owners are going on a long trip overseas
  • The house in under refurbishment

 

Unoccupied insurance can also cover buy to let or holiday homes that are standing empty between tenants.

 

What types of property are covered by unoccupied insurance cover?

Essentially, there are two types of unoccupied insurance cover – one for your home and another for property where you do not live.

You will need check the small print of your home insurance policy to see if cover is given and source an insurance firm willing to take you on if not.

For unoccupied properties that are not your main residence, there are a range of factors which will be taken into account. As mentioned previously, the reason for a property being unoccupied will be vital in determining the risk. The insurer will want to know about the probate situation, whether the home is being sold – whatever the reason you will need specialist advice.

 

 

Preparing your home to be rented out

Letting out a property can be a lucrative business, with rental values outstripping sale returns in many areas. But there’s a fine art to getting the letting game right and there’s often a lot of work that needs to be done before your house is at its best.

Here are the changes and decisions you may need to make before renting out your home – and a few ways to help maximise your returns.

Furnished or unfurnished?

This will depend primarily on the kind of people you expect to be living there. People moving in for short periods of time will generally want a furnished property, so if you’re looking for tenants to stay for six months then it’s probably best keep good-quality furniture on-site. If you’re hoping for longer tenancies, perhaps with professional people or families, furniture is less important.

If you decide to supply furniture it must be compliant with health and safety regulations.

Price competitively and advertise well

If you have a four-bedroom house, is that how you’ll market it? Or will you list it as a three-bedroom house with a study or nursery? This again depends a lot on who you expect will want to move to your area. If it’s a very student-y part of the country, ‘more bedrooms’ is generally better. But if the area is very family friendly then a playroom might be more suitable.

Check the building

Get a surveyor to make sure your building is sound. Large cracks are a giveaway, but subsidence could occur almost unnoticed. You shouldn’t rent out a building that suffers from damp or one that is in a state of serious disrepair.

Finish any work that’s in progress. Unfinished projects look shabby and nobody believes a landlord when they say “it’ll be sorted by the time you move in” – the whole house needs to be sorted well in advance of viewings. Ensure everything works, including all the taps and all the light bulbs.

Smells can be very off-putting. Cigarette smoke leaves an unpleasant, stale odour that can reduce the value of your home as a rental property. Even a lot of smokers won’t tolerate the smell.

Adapt your home

Clean and tidy everywhere. Wash the furniture covers and arrange it into a neutral, welcoming format – just because your kids like to push two armchairs together and make a fort doesn’t mean your new tenants will.

De-personalise your rooms and make it easy for prospective tenants to imagine themselves living there. This is particularly important if you’re living in the house while viewings are taking place – too many photos of you and your kids can be overbearing.

Screen potential tenants

You could check to see whether your prospective tenants have any CCJs against them using this website. It will cost you a few quid to access the records, but that’s a small investment to ensure that they don’t have a track history of non-payment.

Tell your bank and insurance company

Consider whether you need to get insured. Your ordinary home insurance provider won’t normally cover you if you start taking in paying tenants, and you’ll probably want a specialist landlord’s insurance policy anyway. You may also need to notify your mortgage lenders.

Renting out your property can be very rewarding – that’s why there are around 1.9 million private landlords in the UK. But it’s not without its risks, so seek specialist financial or legal help if you’re unsure about anything.

Want to increase your rent? Things to consider

The conditions and circumstances of the rental market change, so even the most big-hearted of landlords will want to increase the rent of their properties over time. You may also need to keep up with interest rates on mortgage payments, cover the costs of landlord’s insurance, or cope with the escalating costs of living or own a property that requires a high level of maintenance. Perhaps maintenance costs have risen and you’ve decided to bite the bullet and raise the rent. There are many reasons, but the question is, what’s the best way to go about it?

 

Before you do anything, ask yourself if you’d rather keep a good tenant and save yourself the hassle and expense of marketing your property, or if you’d rather be able to raise your rent yearly in line with inflation. If you decide on the latter, you’ll need to wait until the end of the fixed-term agreement that your tenant signed. Typically this lasts for six months or a year. You should be careful about signing an agreement that is longer than this, or you may find yourself unable to raise the rent for some time, consequently leaving you out of pocket. When it’s time for the tenant to sign a new contract you can inform them of the rent increase and ask them if they’d like to continue with the tenancy.

 

Remember that your tenant has rights too, and they’re likely to dispute the raise if they feel that it’s excessive, so don’t go overboard. If you can’t come to an agreement between you, the tenant can contct the Recognised Tenant’s Association’s (RTA) Dispute Resolution Service for help.

 

If you still can’t resolve the dispute then you can both apply to the small claims tribunal for a decision. This may end up costing more than the rent increase will bring you, so tread carefully and be willing to compromise. Approach your tenant with tact and respect, especially if they’ve been reliable and trouble free; a good tenant can be hard to find and you don’t want to end up regretting your decision.

Are you looking to take out a loan?

If you need access to some extra cash, perhaps for a new car, a holiday or to consolidate existing debts, chances are you’ve considered taking out a loan. But which type would be right for you? Here’s a quick overview of the options available so you can make an informed decision.

Secured loan

A secured loan is offered when the borrower can provide some form of security or collateral against the amount they’re borrowing. They might secure the loan against a home or a car, for example, giving the lender a guarantee that should the loan not be repaid they can recover the loss through the repossession of the secured item. That means secured loans can generally allow for lower interest rates and higher borrowing limits, and as long as you’ve got suitable collateral they’re usually easier to come by too.

Unsecured loan

An unsecured loan doesn’t require any form of security, meaning you won’t risk losing your car or home should you fail to make repayments, with loans instead being decided on the basis of your credit history and income. But, the lack of guarantee means these loans will typically command a higher interest rate than their secured counterparts.

Payday loan

This is a very specific type of unsecured loan, and payday loans are quickly occupying a core section of the market. These are typically short-term, low-capital and high-interest loans that are intended to be repaid over the course of a month (until “payday”), and providers usually offer a flat fee for the service.

Payday controversy

As you might expect, payday loans are hugely controversial. The often extortionate interest rates (some APRs are more than 4,000%) and the fact they can be rolled over from month to month has attracted criticism from the Office of Fair Trading, consumer groups and the loan industry as a whole, with these companies offering loans to people who simply can’t afford to repay them.

What about regulations?

The credit industry is subject to strict regulations. The Consumer Credit Act 1974 sets out guidelines that all lenders need to adhere to, and in order to trade legally they need to be fully licenced by the OFT. But, the rise of payday loans has put these regulations under the spotlight with a lot of companies not sticking to the rules. This particular sector has been found to be poorly regulated and there’s clear evidence of irresponsible lending and breaches of the law across the board, and that’s meant a lot of firms have been given strict ultimatums to reform or lose their licence.

But, that shouldn’t put you off pursuing a loan elsewhere. Secured loans are still a highly viable option and even certain unsecured loans, if sourced carefully, can be ideal, and as long as common sense prevails you can take out a loan for the cash injection you need.

Property management software for landlords

As a landlord you could have a number of different properties to your name, and that means it’s vital to stay organised so you can keep on top of payments, insurance obligations and compliance issues across your portfolio. But, sometimes staying on track can be easier said than done—a basic spread sheet won’t always be enough, particularly if you’re starting to expand, and that’s why property management software for landlords should always be considered.

What does this software do?

This type of software has been specifically designed to make property management easier to handle, taking the hassle out of managing your portfolio with everything you need in one central location. With so many features you’ll have the power to transform your business for the better—not only will you be able to keep track of tenants and property maintenance issues but the more sophisticated packages will even help with tax calculations and financial forecasting, streamlining processes no end.

Choosing the software that’s right for you

Luckily there are plenty of different options available to suit individual preferences, and the package that’s right for you will depend on a whole range of different factors from your budget to the number of properties you own. Here are just a few options to give you an idea:

  • Property Book Work, free. This web-based package was created by landlords for landlords, with it being specifically developed to offer a simple double-entry system. It’s free if you’ve got one property but to manage a larger portfolio expect to pay for the privilege.
  • Property Hawk Landlord, free. Another web-based version, it generates a lot of useful forms such as tenancy agreements and keeps track of all pertinent information.
  • Property Portfolio, £49.97/month or a one-off payment of £397 (both excluding vat). Comes with a fantastic range of features including access to a legal document centre and the option to calculate income tax using HMRC guidelines.
  • Landlord Manager for Sage Instant, £595 plus vat. Ideal for professional landlords with up to 50 properties, this package offers a full accounting solution that can keep track of finances, tenants and even legal obligations (safety inspections, insurance renewals etc.).

You’ll find options that cover the entire spectrum, from free software packages to the paid-for versions, but whilst you might begrudge paying for such software remember that you tend to get what you pay for. Freebies might be a great way to test the water but they won’t usually offer the level of functionality you need if your business is growing, so it’s worth viewing it as an investment in your business and one that can offer great returns in the long run.

Stay in control

It’s all about doing your research with a lot of it being trial and error, but whether you’re after something basic or more sophisticated you’ll find the right property management software can transform your business prospects. It can be ideal if you’re juggling a number of different properties as you’ll have an instant overview of your finances and performance as a whole, with the right options keeping you in control and leaving you free to grow your portfolio, maximise your revenue and take your business forwards.

Does it make financial sense to consider term life insurance in your 30s?

No matter what type of life insurance policy you choose, your goal is to make sure that your loved ones will be able to anticipate unforeseen expenses and live comfortably without the income you currently provide. Also known as level premium insurance, term life insurance provides a fixed death benefit to your beneficiaries in the event you pass away within the term of the policy. If the term expires, you receive no money in return for the premium you paid during the term, which can be maximum thirty years.

Of all the life insurance policies, term life insurance makes financial sense if you’re looking for financial protection during a specified term at the lowest premium. Whether you’re looking for a 30-year term policy while paying off your mortgage, for a 20-year term policy to fund your child’s education or for a 10-year term policy to cover for your expenses until you hit retirement, term life insurance can offer you the peace of mind that comes with the certainty that your dependents won’t be left with nothing if you pass away. In the event you pass away within the term, your dependents will receive immediate death benefit as described in your contract.

Unlike other investment products, term life insurance does not build any cash value that the policyholder can recapture or borrow against, but it is purchased to cover short-term needs. But, term policies offer additional benefits including coverage against huge medical bills, coverage of hospitalization and treatment, lower medical costs, lower costs to specialized doctors and better access to routine medical checkups and health care.

One big dilemma that most people face when it comes to term life insurance is when is the right time to buy a term policy. Here are some basic guidelines for considering term life insurance in your 30s.

1. The rule of age
The younger you are, the better financial decisions you make. In your 30s you have less financial obligations and more time ahead to allocate your money properly. In your 60s you have family, mortgages, school loans and medical bills. By purchasing term life insurance in your 30s, you are able to anticipate unforeseen expenses and secure the financial future of your dependents. Moreover, over the term of your policy you will be able to lower your premium as you will have gathered liquid assets to draw money from to cover for unforeseen expenses. Also, in general, the younger you are, the lower the premium. So, why not taking advantage of that as well?

2. The rule of how much
Typically, choosing a term life insurance policy is a decision based on your current budget and individual lifestyle. For instance, if you are a single parent with a child, age six, and you want to anticipate college expenses, you may decide to buy a 20-year term policy. If college expenses would cost you £60,000 per year, a death benefit of £240,000 is adequate to fund your child’s college education in case you pass away within the 20 years. On the other hand, if you are in your 50s, you may consider a 10-year term policy to cover for the years left to retirement and a death benefit for your spouse.

In general, two important factors that need to be taken into account when considering term insurance is protection and cost. Once the term expires, the policy is no longer in force. This means that your beneficiaries will collect the death benefit only if you pass away within the term. Otherwise, the premiums have been paid in vain. The cost of a term insurance policy is the lowest compared to other insurance policies, but you should always have in mind that the premium is a product of age, health condition, and length of term. This justifies why the earlier you buy term life insurance, the better.

Thomas Sterlin is an independent author, whose review articles aim to help consumers make an educated choice of an insurance plan. Read his latest overviews of Bright Grey life insurance and Friends Life insurance products.

 

The benefits of outsourcing your landlord admin

Ask yourself why you become a landlord. There are a few reasons that you would want to but I would put large amounts of money on you not answering one of the following:

1)                  To do lots and lots of paperwork

2)                  To find friendly tenants to hang out with

3)                  To destroy your property slowly over time

4)                  To enjoy being in the front lines of the fluctuating property market

That first one in particular is never going to be anyone’s reason to do anything, with the exception of maybe a professional secretary or personal assistant, and even then, they probably didn’t get into that gig specifically for that factor.

It’s much more likely that you became a landlord to either play the property market as an investor or that you had a spare property kicking around that you didn’t really want to sell. For this reason, you do not want to find yourself bogged down in paperwork and general administration.

Even if you only rent out one property, there will be some moments where keeping your tenants happy and the venture ticking over becomes a demanding job. Keeping on top of paperwork is one thing with important aspects like your landlord-insurance or your tenancy agreements often becoming overwhelming and once you start expanding with multiple properties, the workload in terms of satisfying tenant demands understandably also begins to scale rapidly.

Delegation for fun and profit

If you are renting out multiple properties, you have stopped becoming a casual landlord and are moving closer towards a more traditional business model and just like any traditional business model, delegating more routine yet time consuming tasks is a must.

If you offload all of the grunt work that you find yourself increasingly engaged in to someone, then you are going to find whatever you pay them to do this a very worthwhile investment as it frees you up to take command of the bigger picture.

Losing the tedious admin work leaves you with the broad strokes research of looking for new properties to buy, deciding which properties you might consider selling or even investigating other investment ventures entirely. If you are a landlord of multiple properties, it is often a safe bet to say that your talents are not best used by time consuming administration.

Sense checking

Obviously it is important to make sure that your operation can support administrative staff before putting out an ad for an assistant. It might be that a more cost effective route would be to investigate going through a lettings agent if you don’t mind surrendering some of the control and paying a regular fee to them.

You want to be making money from your investment and not wasting your life chasing around fiddly paperwork issues when you could be looking into new ways to make money.

YOUR Insurance specialises in providing landlord-insurance-for-landlords of single and multiple properties.